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January 1st, 2009
01:45 PM ET

The evil behind the smiles

In this photograph, taken in January 2008, the faces of these former child sex workers can't be shown in order to protect them.

In this photograph, taken in January 2008, the faces of these former child sex workers can't be shown in order to protect them.

Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times

Western men who visit red-light districts in poor countries often find themselves surrounded by coquettish teenage girls laughingly tugging them toward the brothels. The men assume that the girls are there voluntarily, and in some cases they are right.

But anyone inclined to take the girls’ smiles at face value should talk to Sina Vann, who was once one of those smiling girls.

Sina is Vietnamese but was kidnapped at the age of 13 and taken to Cambodia, where she was drugged. She said she woke up naked and bloody on a bed with a white man — she doesn’t know his nationality — who had purchased her virginity.

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Filed under: Global 360°
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Faz Khan

    Man this stuff is just wrong...I hope they find the missing daughters...its just soo wrong...

    January 1, 2009 at 6:33 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    I find it hard to even imagine this sort of thing going on to girls of 14 years of age and younger, but I know that it happens. I admire the women who having escaped from this being willing to risk their life and freedom to help others escape also. There will always be evil in this world but hopefully there will always be people like Sina and Somaly who fight each day to stamp a little bit more of this evil out.

    January 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  3. Stacy

    What a horrific story . I commend you for continuing to report on this very important issue. Sina and Somaly Mam are truly courageous.

    January 1, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  4. Neil

    What an amazing story, and one not told often enough, but stories like this are not just confined to Cambodia, instead we see them in places like Holland and Russia.

    January 1, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  5. Jessica

    This is sickening...but what is more disturbing is the amount of people going out there keeping these monsters in business!! We can save all the girls in the world but as long as there are sick customers there will be monstorous suppliers willing to do anything for the almighty dollar... sickening!!!!

    January 1, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  6. Cindy

    Stories such as these are extremely sad! I find it ridiculous that in this day and age that people can actually get away with kidnapping, torturing and selling these young girls for sex. That is just sickening. And it's not just happening in these third world countries. It happens right here in the U.S. There was one ring brought down here in Georgia where they were going over there and getting these girls bringing them back and then trading them around with other sick men. Thank God it was found out and busted.

    I too hope that more can be done to eradicate this sex trade. More needs to be done also to the men that participate in this. If it weren't for them there would be no trade.

    I applaud women such as Sina and Somaly Mam for risking their lives to help get these girls out of those brothels. I hope they rescue many more and stay safe!

    Cindy...Ga.

    January 1, 2009 at 2:01 pm |